Saturday, April 1, 2023

Disruption versus Destruction.

Today's edition of the New York Times caught my eye with an article by Cade Metz regarding Sam Altman, the CEO of OpenAI, and their chatbot, ChatGPT. The article weaves between Altman's biography, the product, and the nature of the firm. The article references Altman's belief in "effective altruism," a rational approach to maximizing global impact through evidence-based decision-making. The article's almost treats the life story of a CEO as a political biography, as a source to establish the legitimacy of the company and the technology.

A tech firm CEO, much like a head of state, serves as a unifying force that seeks to transcend divisions and foster a sense of identity and shared values around the company. Sam Altman's "effective altruism" is here like the "dignified" aspect of a monarchy, providing reassurance to the public and calming concerns about the impact of AI. Meanwhile, the "efficient" aspect of a tech firm, responsible for developing and implementing technology, operates on business principles necessarily different from the legitimizing elements of the firm's leadership.

While the New York Times article illustrates the role of a technology CEO in shaping public perception, it is crucial to remember that the efficient aspect of OpenAI is far different than the personality of Sam Altman. Effective altruism has little to do with the actual impact of the technology. It is vital to focus on the potential risks of disruptive new technologies, as their misuse in authoritarian hands has been destructive. "Effective altruism" could very well be serving as a distraction here, rather than a guarantee of responsible AI development.